Michigan Tech ‘heading in the right direction,’ climbing WCHA standings thanks to back-to-back sweeps

2018 Great Lakes Invitational Championship Game, Michigan Tech vs Lake Superior State, Monday 31 December 2018 Seamus Donohue Copyright: Geoffrey M. Miller (Geoffrey M. Miller/photo: Michigan Tech Athletics)
Seamus Donohue leads all Michigan Tech defensemen in scoring with a goal and eight points through 13 games this season (photo: Geoffrey M. Miller/Michigan Tech Athletics).

Three weeks ago, Michigan Tech played host to then-No. 2 Minnesota State in its second home WCHA weekend of the season.

The Huskies looked flat in sections of Friday night’s 3-0 loss to the WCHA-leading Mavericks, including a second period that saw the Huskies get outshot 19-8.

At intermission, something started to change.

The Huskies came out in the third period and outshot the Mavericks 16-7, but were still outscored 1-0 in the period. Goaltender Robbie Beydoun was pulled from the net after giving up his third goal of the night and replaced with Blake Pietila, who made six saves over the game’s final 18:53.

Fans watching the game at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena had no idea what was to come.

Pietila got the start in the Saturday contest. He gave up a goal 4:55 in, but then he stood his ground until late in the second period.

At the same time, the Huskies (7-6-0 overall, 5-5-0-0 WCHA) started to take the game to the Mavericks, and Seamus Donohue jumped on a loose puck to even the game 3:04 into the middle frame.

The Mavericks get score again late in the period to take the lead and held onto it until the final buzzer, but there was a distinct buzz in the building. This was a different Huskies’ squad than the one that lost Friday’s game.

Since that loss, the Huskies have swept Lake Superior State on the road and followed that up with a sweep of a home-and-home series with their rivals, No. 19 Northern Michign.

“I am extremely proud of our team,” said Huskies coach Joe Shawhan on his radio show on Mix 93 Monday morning. “We are growing. We are going to have to work out playing with a lead…but, we are coming out with points. These are all one-goal wins against very good teams.”

Shawhan, while proud to see his team start winning consecutive games, admits there is plenty of road to travel.

“I am extremely happy with the way the guys are playing,” he said. “We still have a long way to go in all areas, but we are certainly heading in the right direction.”

This past weekend, the Huskies skated away with a pair of 3-2 wins over the Wildcats.

On Friday, they had to battle back from a 2-1 deficit in the third period as Colin Swoyer evened the game at 8:04 during a 4-on-4 situation. Just 1:10 later, Brian Halonen struck on the power play to give the Huskies the lead.

The Huskies’ power play has struggled this season, going just 8 for 56 for a 14.3 percent efficiency rate, but it is getting more consistent, in Shawhan’s opinion, as the team is starting to work the puck through opposing teams’ defensive box.

Saturday, the Huskies jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from captain Raymond Brice 2:08 into the contest and Alec Broetzman and Eric Gotz in the second. The Wildcats notched two in the third, including one with goaltender Nolan Kent pulled.

Shawhan loves the support he sees the team getting as they are starting to move in the right direction.

“It was a good rivalry weekend,” said Shawhan. “You could feel the energy in the building. It’s such a great environment here. It makes it enjoyable.”

At the same time, Shawhan feels his team has a lot of growing to do.

“I think the biggest thing we need to do is find ways to turn,” Shawhan said. “When teams are coming like that and putting on pressure, when they are coming, pinching, coming with everything they have in a hockey game, that (makes for) opportunities to open the game up and create 2-on-1s and things like that.

“We don’t have a ton of experience with that in the last eight months or so. We are getting better.”

Shawhan carries high expectations for his players, who still need work on the little things in order to improve the bigger aspects of their games.

“When you are playing good teams of the quality that we are playing, momentum means so much,” he said. “We you give up momentum and they gain it, it changes the flow of the game. We have to make sure we manage that. We are continuing to work on it.”

The Huskies make the lengthy trek to Fairbanks this weekend, looking for their first win of the season against the Nanooks, who came into Houghton on Oct. 11 and 12 and skated away with all six points after a 3-2 win Friday and a 2-1 win Saturday.

Newton’s big night

On Friday night, the Nanooks came up just short at home against Ferris State, losing 3-2. The Nanooks turned the tables Saturday with a 3-1 win, thanks in large part to a three-point night from Max Newton.

Newton scored the game’s first two goals, getting his first on an early first-period power play at 3:21. His second came 7:07 into the middle frame. Newton followed that up by assisting on Tyler Cline’s power-play goal at 19:11 of the third period to seal the victory.

Lakers break through

With a 5-0 loss to Bowling Green on Friday night, Lake Superior State dropped its fifth straight game. In danger of their second six-game losing streak, the Lakers rallied Saturday to earn their first win since sweeping Ferris State Nov. 2-3.

After battling through a scoreless first 30:25 of the contest, the Lakers struck on the man advantage when Pierre-Luc Veilette found the back of the net. The Falcons evened things a little over a minute later.

Alexandro Ambrosio and Max Humitz both struck in the third, with Humitz’s coming while the Falcons had an extra skater on the ice looking to even things.